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Return To Forever -  Returns CD (album) cover

RETURNS

Return To Forever

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.11 | 43 ratings

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Gatot
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Return To Forever (RTF) has been a very special band throughout my musical career. Do I have a musical career? Well, ...music has been in my life since I was teenagers and I was quite intense with music when I was 14. Of course as listener because I am not a musician at all. Why is it that RTF very special because by definition I have been more into symphonic prog than jazz fusion? First, I was hooked with the music the first time I listened to RTF seventh album 'Music Magic' from a cassette owned by my friend sometime in 1976 / 1977. Since then I was curious about RTF and tried to search other albums. The reason I liked was the composition that was very dynamic, complex but it still maintained excellent harmonies especially with the inventive keyboard work by Chick Corea - one of the founding fathers of RTF. Second, my debut as music reviewer with this wonderful ProgArchives started with writing short review about Return To Forever 'Music Magic' album. It's so memorable to me.

Amazing Talents resulted Great Performance!

Throughout its career, RTF has made seven studio albums spanning from 1972 to 1977. I got this live CD 'Returns' last week and I am very happy to see the band reunited for the first time in 25 years time. 'Returns' is the live album that this classic RTF line-up, from fourth album 'Where Have I known You Before' (1974) until sixth album 'Romantic Warrior' (1976). The line-up is Lenny White on drums, Al Di Meola on guitar plus two founding members Stanley Clarke (bass) and Chick Corea (piano, keyboard). After the last studio album each band members went to solo or collaborated with other jazz musicians. Chick Corea had been issuing solo album since the 60s and after RTF last album he released phenomenal album 'The Mad Hatter' (1978) which has tracks similar to RTF especially 'Dear Allice'. It's quite strange that Chick Corea has not been featured here on this site while his mates Stanley Clarke and Meola have been featured here. I recommend Chick Corea solo albums are included here as well.

With improvements in both instrument, recording technology as well as members' musical skills after they individually performed solo work and collaborative effort this performance sounds really great. As Russ Davis wrote on the CD sleeve, there was a spirit of anticipation for a reunion before the 2008 Tour became a reality. Chick and Al reunited in 2006 to record Al's solo project 'Consequence of Chaos'. Al, Stanley, and Lenny appeared together at the Fourth Annual Stanley Clarke Scholarship Benefit in Hollywood, playing RTF's Grammy winning tune 'No Mysery' with Patrice Rushen in the piano chair.

The result is a great performance recorded here in the two-CD set. Grabbing some of the best material from the guitar-driven RTF's music run?Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy (Polydor, 1973) through Romantic Warrior (Columbia, 1976)?it capitalizes on individual growth and talent since that time, making this is a wonderful live album. The music flows nicely from the ambient 'Opening Prayer' (2:02) demonstrating unique keyboard playing of Chick combined with dynamic bass guitar and stunning guitar work backed with good drumming. It seamlessly flows to the dynamic 'Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy' (3:44) where Meola plays nicely, replacing original guitarist Bill Connors.

Most songs featured here are extended from its original recording like you can hear 'Vulcan Worlds' (13:45) which contains interesting Stanley's dynamic bass guitar solo in the middle of the track. He also plays bass notes from his solo album. It's quite obvious as since the opening part bass guitar has played quite dominant role. The good thing about RTF music is that each musician does not seem to play the instrument as rhythm section. Even though the music contains solo, the other instruments play their roles to fill the music with their own dynamic playing. It happens across all the tracks offered here in this CD. When Al Di Meola plays his solo, other instruments play dynamically at the back including the jaw-dropping drumwork by Lenny. Chick Corea fills the keyboard in between the solo or sometimes he plays longer solo. You can find similar dynamic collaboration on the next track 'Sorceress' (11:24) as well. This track is quite unique as after fisrt one minute the music turns into bluesy style featuring guitar solo by Al. It's really great.

I thought I would get bored with the extremely extended 'Song to the Pharaoh Kings' (27:17) which the original version only consumes 14 minutes of duration. But at the end it turned out a wonderful journey of musical enjoyment throughout the span of 27 minutes. In fact before it ends I feel like 'why must it end?' because I still enjoy the music. There are parts where Al plays his guitar wildly combined with inventive keyboard maneuver by Chick. At the what so called rhythm section Stanley plays his bass guitar dynamically. Lenny is very skillful in his changing style of drumming. The beauty of this extended version of 'Song to the Pharaoh Kings' is the fact that each segment of the music, in any portion of the track, provides me with the joy of listening the music. The time when guitar dominates, keyboard creates another dynamic fills that sound like they are making dialogue. The bass lines are also dynamic with great skills of Stanley throughout the song.

The solo portion for Al is also very nice on track 6 where he puts his solo work from 'Children's Song #3' , 'Passion Grace & Fire', 'Mediterranean Sundance', 'Cafe 1930' and of course the famous 'Spain' plus guitar solo totaling almost close to 9 minutes duration.

Disc 2 is also another great gem with Chick's 'Friendship' followed with the legendary 'Romantic Warrio'r (7:20). I think the best track of this Disc 2, as a matter of taste, is 'Duel of the Jester and the Tyrant (14:10). The whole set of CD 2 is as enjoyable as Disc 1. It also contains bonus tracks '500 Miles High' (12:54) and 'BBC Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by Sir George Martin; live performance of Romantic Warrior' (8:21).

Conclusion

Overall, this is a masterpiece of jazz rock fusion live performance. The selection of songs as well as the band's performance are all excellent. On composition, the harmonies and frequency of change of style are masterpiece and backed up by solid structural integrity of each song as well as the whole album I think this is the best jazz rock fusion band and amazing live performance. Keep on proggin' ...!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Gatot | 5/5 |

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